What Does Black History Month Mean to You? IDEA Leader: Cristen Martens

Walking down the hallways of IDEA Walzem, you would know if you saw Cristen Martens, the school’s Assistant Principal of Instruction (API). She would be the petite administrator, beaming from ear to ear, greeting students, and encouraging teachers.

This radiant educator recently took time to reflect on the meaning of Black History Month and shared who inspired her to always execute what she references as the “fruits of the spirit.”

What interested you most about education? Why did you choose this career path?

Growing up, I was blessed to have good leadership around me. From my community to my church, to the schools I attended, there has always been exceptional leaders present and a reigning theme that education and academic success was a non-negotiable. Coming from a low socioeconomic community, the sentiment echoed was consistent, that education was the vehicle out of poverty. My goal then and now is to be a catalyst for change and it is clear to me that next to the home, the schoolhouse is ground zero for the positive engagement our children deserve.

What is your education background?

I graduated from Texas State University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. I then graduated from The University of Texas in San Antonio with a Master of Education in educational leadership. I also hold the following certifications in Texas: 4 – 8 grade Generalist, K – 12 Principal, and K – 12 Superintendent.

Why did you apply to IDEA Public Schools?

I was looking to grow as a leader. I also believe in the vision that all kids can and will go to and through college.

What is the significance of Black History Month to you?

Black history is significant for me because it marks progress. African Americans have come a long way as a people—from slavery to leading the most powerful country in the world. There was a time where African Americans were considered three-fifths of a person. There was also time when black women were considered even less than that.

Being able to share accomplishments, triumphs, and black culture on a national level with pride shows progress. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will forever be a pioneer in the USA for his fight for Civil Rights, but the influence of African American people doesn’t and didn’t stop there. We have influencers such as: Barack Obama, the 44thPresident of the United States; Rita Pierson, a black female educator who reminded us that “Every child needs a champion”; Kamala Harris, a candidate for the 2020 Presidential election, and many more.

I am often reminded of the words of Maya Angelou, “When you learn, teach, and when you get, give.” Someone sacrificed for me, therefore I have an obligation, and a responsibility, to pour back into the communities in which I serve and live.

What historic African American leader has influenced you most and why?

There are many black leaders that I can name that have influenced me, but I’d be remiss if I acknowledged them and not my own mother, Joyce Marie Jackson, and grandmother, Ruth Mae Carter. They influenced me the most! They taught me that hard work, good ethics, high character, meekness and sacrifice were all traits acquired through observation and their everyday life lessons. They taught me how to care for people and how to love unconditionally. Even though I only have one of the two here on earth with me, the teachings that I was able to encounter will forever be embedded in my life and is a constant reminder to sow seeds of excellence.

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